Message claims that attached photographs of a space shuttle launch were taken from the International Space Station
Genuine photographs – Description is inaccurate
Photos of recent Shuttle launch as seen from the International Space Station
These spectacular photographs are circulating rapidly via email, blog and forum posts. The date stamp on the photographs suggests that they depict the September 2006 launch of the shuttle Atlantis (NASA Mission STS-115).
While the photographs are genuine, the claim that they were taken from the International Space Station is untrue. They depict an altitude far too low for photographs taken from the ISS. The large expanse of the earth’s surface and the slight curvature of the horizon strongly suggest that the photographs were not taken from an orbiting space station. The following photograph, which was taken from the ISS, clearly shows a significantly higher viewpoint.
In fact, the photographs were almost certainly taken from a WB-57 chase jet. These high altitude jets are able to keep pace with the shuttle high into the earth’s atmosphere and capture detailed images of the shuttle as it climbs towards orbit. The planes can climb to over 60,000 feet.
A thread on the Nasaspaceflight.com forums discusses the images in depth and expert commentators concur that they were indeed taken by crew aboard a WB-57 aircraft.
In spite of the inaccuracy in the description, these shots are truly awesome.
Last updated: 8th November 2006
First published: 8th November 2006
By Brett M. Christensen